The tenacity of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in the pursuit of the release of their supreme leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El- zakzaky from detention, took a new dimension on Monday when the Shi’ite clashed with law enforcement personnel resulting in gunfire, petrol bombs and stones around the federal secretariat in Abuja.
Before then, there were series of road marches organized by the group almost bi-weekly in the federal capital with pockets of clashes at Nyanya in Abuja and Suleja in Niger state.Thousands of youth, including women and children were drafted into the protests running through public highways with the purpose of drawing attention and sympathy from the rest of Nigerians.
Each time the Shi’ite sect staged a protest, there followed debates over the desirability or otherwise of the continued detention of their leader.
Usually, at every show of strength by the group, the public reacted out of fright, owing to the various security challenges bedeviling the country. We need not over-emphasise the fact that cases of Boko Haram insurgency, armed robbery, kidnappings, farmers/herders clashes and banditry have given enough sleepless nights to those on the fringes let alone those at the centre of the mayhems that have already claimed a lot of lives and properties.
Concerns have been raised over the nonchalance of the government to a court order asking it to release El-zakzaky on medical grounds. However, in the wisdom of the federal government of Nigeria and the Kaduna state government, the activities of IMN is a grave threat to national security in view of their several encroachments on the constitutional rights of other citizens to free movement.
While the bulk of Nigerians may hardly understand the rationale behind government’s behavior over the cleric and his group, followers of the group’s ethos have consistently paid heed to the sect’s contempt for any political authority other than that flowing from their spiritual leaderships. Under this condition, they are not obliged to negotiate below their defined political templates geared towards the acquisition of total political power.
With this ideology coupled with a deep vault ostensibly connected to a country in the Persian Gulf, more is to be expected from this sect. Given the external hands in internal conflicts in most flashpoints of the world today, the government and indeed, other Nigerians must be wary of the current situation. This is because, the sheer number of the Shi’ite members trickling into Abuja and bonding for the mass march calls to question the source of funding for transportation and feeding for many months since the incarceration of El-zakzaky since 2015.
This calls for various avenues to nip this crisis in the bud before it gets out of hand amidst the dilemma government find itself. Should government yield to a group whose doctrines are hardly public, might expose others to danger. We must take cue from the war on-going in Yemen between the Shiite Houthis and the Saudi-backed Sunnis overthrown from power there. We must also not overlook the military power of the Shiite Hezbollah group who grabbed control of large swath of Lebanon from the legitimate government in Beirut.
It is our view therefore, that enough caution should be taken to douse the tension connected with the sect in our own backyard given the shooting to death of a Commissioner of Police on Monday. We advocate a kind of dialogue with the El-zakzaky that should extract commitment to the indivisibility of Nigeria without his continued recourse to forceful violation of other people’s rights to live freely without molestation.
In the Holy Qur’an which Muslims subscribes to, Allah warns against compulsion in faith. Therefore, let us call each other to our beliefs only by conviction and good conduct.